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Engineers to make modular cities for refugees

Better Shelter

Engineers are working on solutions to the global refugee crisis, including the creation of manufactured cities.

The plans are set out in a new report called Engineering Hope, published by Mott Macdonald. They include having an open source digital catalogue of building components which could be used to create bespoke towns or cities for refugees.

“With a component catalogue or a digital library, you can effectively drag and drop these solutions into your virtual workspace and plug them together, very much like virtual Lego, and then configure all sorts of different solutions,” said Mott MacDonald group technical director Mark Enzer. He said that standards should be developed to ensure parts fit together irrespective of supplier.

“So what you can easily imagine, using this type of approach, is an open source, digital library or catalogue, of core components for a city: high quality modules for housing, schools, healthcare facilities, municipal buildings, but also the essential infrastructure that goes with that [such as] water supply, power.”

RedR chief executive Martin McCann warned against overdesigning settlements, arguing that “bad engineering will make a situation worse. Good engineering, at best, is just part of the solution.”

Refugees spend an average of 17 years in temporary camps; these are often rudimentary, offering poor sanitation and lacking opportunities for education and employment.

Engineering Hope calls for a coalition of engineering and humanitarian experts to help create off-the-shelf, flexible designs for cities, so they can be manufactured quickly in a crisis. It also suggests creating a pilot settlement by 2020.

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